Freshman Tracy Jackson, who attends the same church in his hometown as Lefty Diresell, played his best game at Notre Dame yesterday. The victims were the Maryland Terrapins, who once again let their poise slip away in the second half and lost, 69-54.
Jackson, a graduate of Paint Branch High School in Silver Spring, scored nine points in the second half to break the tame open for the Irish, now 14-3.
Jackson burned both Al King and Lawrence Boston on flashy back-door slam dunks and shook hands with Driesell after the game.
The defeat, aided by 18 Maryland dowed Larry Gibson's 17-point performance. The Terps are now 11-7 and losers of six of their last eight games.
"I've been up for this game all week. I'm so high, no one can bring me down," said Jackson. "I didn't play at all in the UCLA game (last Sunday) and I was really depressed. I'm going through some difficult things as a freshman with basketball and academics, but I've learned I have to be patient.
This week we worked more on fundamentals sharp cuts. I just headed for the basket when I lost my man. One time, Al King just turned his head for a second, and with the help of a good pass from Bruce Flowers, it was just open for me.
"I almost went to Maryland. In fact my junior year I thought Maryland was the place for me. But then I decided academics were more important than basketball and socializing, and Notre Dame seemed like the place for me. Lefty Driesell and I are good friends, and sometimes I've wondered if I made the wrong choice. But I'm happy here."
Jackson was voted the player of the game and received a standing ovation from the crowd of 11,345 students who broke out of a four-day snowed-in funk. The only people who could attend the game were those who walked through the 40 inches of snow, and students were admitted free.
Rich Banning led Notre Dame in scoring with 15.
Kelly Tripucka added 12 for the Irish and Jackson, playing only 17 minutes, scored 11.
King scored 10 points for the Terps in the first half on five of eight shots as Maryland was reasonably close at intermission at 31-28.
Notre Dame put the struggling Terps away for good by opening the second half with an 16-3 spurt for a 47-31 lead.
King was held to five points on two-of-five shooting in the second half and was the only other Terrapin in double figures.
Maryland lost the ball six times during the Irish spurt. The Teprs had played well in the first half, however, and a comeback still seemed possible against a Notre Dame team that had been somewhat erratic.
However, when Jackson came off the bench, his slam dunks breathed fire into the Irish and the Terps wilted.
Jackson's first backdoor basket put the Irish up, 53-39, with 7-51 left, and the second, this one around Boston, put the game further out of reach at 58-44.
Jackson later hit four straight baskets down the stretch, once ducking Bryant's hurdling block, for a 62-46 lead.
"It's the same old story," said Driesell. "We play good for a half and then we go to pieces. We're having our problems, and I just hope I survive. This is one of those seasons I'll be glad when it's over. We've messed up somewhere."
Maryland played its best defense of the year in the first half, spending most of the time in a 3-2 zone that checked Notre Dame's most potent weapon - offensive rebounding. Maryland outrebounded the Irish, 21-20, in the half.
The Irish, who came into the game with 20 straight wins in the Athletic Convocation center, led 31-28 at the half after going ahead by as many as nine points.
Maryland coach Lefty Driesell made one change in his starting lineup, using second guard JoJo Hunter instead of Billy Bryant, whose defensive lapses had been hurting the team.
The Terps opened the game in a four-corners delay game and received rousing disapproval from the nearly packed house.
Notre Dame broke open a close contest with 6-1 scoring streak for a 19-13 lead midway through the first half.